O'Donnell, Tom. Space Rocks
February 6th 2014
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Chorkle has gotten permission from his father, the leaders of the Xotonians, to do a recon mission and spy on the humans that have invaded his planet Gelo and are mining iridium there. He's been warned not to be seen, but when he sneaks into their space ship to warn the humans that his people are planning to scare them off by causing a small planet quake, he gets distracted by ice cream bars and ends up getting trapped in the ship when it takes off. Because an alien life form is detected by the ship, the capsule with the four children in it gets jettisoned. Hollins, Becky, Nicki and Little Gus are frightened of Chorkle, but have to trust him to lead them to the oxygen rich tunnels of Gelo so they can wait until their parents can rescue them. While in the tunnels, they come across an ancient holograph of the fabled Xotonian leader Jalasu Jhuk, as well as ancient technology like starships. Soon, however, Chorkle's father and the Xotonian forces find the group and plan to interrogate them. Getting no information from the children, they let Chorkle watch them while the adults try to negotiate with the human parents, but all of this comes to a halt when the legendary Vorem attack. They have tried for generations to find the Q-sik, a deadly laser that the Xotonians used to cause the planet quake. They want it, and will stop at nothing to get it. Everyone decides that the best strategic plan is to let the Vorem attack, and the human children are deemed the most capable ones to pilot the starships. They manage to hold off the Vorem, only to have something disastrous happen to them... will there be a book two to tell us how this all works out?
Strengths: There were lots of things I liked about this: fresh perspective (alien whose planet is invaded by humans), leaders apologizing for mistakes they made, intergalactic harmony, and funny alien exploits. The characters are all well developed, there's some decent world building. Funny science fiction doesn't do all that well in my library, but I'm buying this anyway. Plenty of funny lines and situations, too, like Chortle's observation that humans are "light years beyond my people in graphic design", and Chortle's grand originator's obsession with video games.
Weaknesses: This gets off to a rocky start. Chortle learns English by intercepting communications, and the beginning of the book is rife with descriptions of the humans in odd language. There's also a few Xotonian words and phrases used, including the expletive "guano". I understand the difficulties of this, (it's sort of like writing from the point of view of a dog and trying to explain the "thunder cages" ala Erin Hunter) but it's not my favorite stuff to read. Once Chorkle is with the humans for a bit and is more fluent, this ceases to be a problem.
Bix, Cynthia Overbeck. Spending Spree: The History of American Shopping.
November 1st 2013
by Twenty-First Century Books
Starting with a brief overview of what early opportunities existed for obtaining consumer goods in the US, this proceeds historically through general stores, catalog shopping, department stores, and ends with e shopping and pop up boutiques. Dime stores, infomercials and everything but thrift stores are given brief coverage, all with period photos illustrating what things were like in different times.
Strengths: At 88 pages long, this is perfect for getting students to read nonfiction. It's got a striking cover, the pages are well designed (and have a pretty green on them!) with lots of pictures, and the text is informative and fun to read. I think this will be a popular book, so I'm glad to see it looks fairly well bound.
Weaknesses: I would have touched briefly on the phenomenon of resale, since it seems to be a particularly US concept (didn't have any luck buying random old school t shirts in Ireland!) and a direct result of all the shopping opportunities that exist. Thrift stores are the only ones I go into with good spirit, as I really hate to shop!
Marvelous Middle Grade
Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading?
day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.